Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

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Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

I’m Bored. I’m Depressed. I’m Not Being Productive. What Should I Do?

I’m Bored. I’m Depressed. I’m Not Being Productive.
What Should I Do?

My counsel is, to force nothing, and rather to trifle and sleep away all unproductive days and hours,
than on such days to compose something that will afterwards give no pleasure.

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I heard from an out-of-town friend the other day that she was walking around feeling bored. At the same time, she was feeling guilty that she was not doing something “productive.” When she spoke with her therapist, the therapist suggested she do something she enjoyed. “Why didn’t I think of that?” my friend wondered.

Are you one of those people who feels every minute of every day should be spent being “productive?” Where is it written that this must be the case? Are you less of a person because you are not doing something you think is productive and will earn you brownie points somewhere? Some contribution to society at large or your personal list of things to be accomplished? Are you less worthy if you’re doing something fun? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s just as important to do pleasurable things in the moment as it is in the longer view of the need to take vacation.

I’m betting that the word “should” enters your thinking a lot, and constitutes a large part of your vocabulary. I should clean the house. I should call my parents. I should walk the dog. I should read another chapter of that book for my class. I should go to the gym, but I hate the gym. I should I should I should.

And on top of it, you’re bored out of your skull and eventually become depressed, because you have all these obligations (real or imagined) weighing on you. All those shoulds.

“Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?”

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

And there you are, beating yourself up over all the things you should be doing or should have accomplished by now and haven’t.

Does the word “want” ever become part of your vocabulary? Doing things you like, enjoy, get pleasure out of and want to do? I want to take a dance class, because I love dance. (But that’s not productive…) I want to read a novel, not some dry boring book I was assigned to read for class. I really love yoga, but actually, yoga is a waste of time and money that I should be spending on something more useful and productive.

It’s the difference between having to do things and having things to do. Your list of things you “have to” do is probably way longer than your list of things you could do that would be fun.

Doing something pleasurable is likely one of those things that’s out of your comfort zone. It’s like that ratty old pair of slippers you have. They’re dirty, they’re torn, they’re falling apart. Yet – they’re just SO comfortable, you can’t imagine throwing them away and getting a new pair. That would be a waste of money, when the ones you have are perfectly good enough. But they really aren’t. And getting a new pair would mean having to shop for them, try them on, break them in, get used to them – not the least bit productive. In the end, though, you’d probably love them, and they’ll give you pleasure to look at, walk around in, curl up in.

Think of the slippers metaphor every time you’re bored and depressed, beating yourself up over what you should be doing that’s productive or what you are doing that’s not productive. That if you do it somehow will give you a couple of points in your plus column that you can feel good about having added. But you don’t honestly really and truly feel good about it if it’s a part of your habitual way of walking through life, feeling the burden of “should” weighing so heavily on your shoulders, and refusing to allow fun activities play a significant part.

Give yourself a break. Do something pleasurable, whatever that is for you, and let go of the guilt. It’s ok to have fun. Really. Oh, and treat yourself to a new pair of comfy slippers.

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